TEHRAN – Nicaragua’s ambassador to Tehran says the argument by the Colombian president that the ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in resolving the territorial and maritime dispute between Bogota and Managua is against the Colombian constitution is “absurd because no constitution can be above international law.”
Nicaraguan Ambassador Mario Barquero Baltodano made the remarks in an interview with the Tehran Times on Wednesday.
The ambassador said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is rejecting the ICJ ruling “to gain popularity because he is seeking to be reelected” in the next year’s election.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: How did this controversy between Nicaragua and Colombia start?
A: Since the independence of Nicaragua in 1821, Colombia takes possession of the islands of San Andres and Providencia and the entire archipelago. Besides, it also declares as Colombian territory the entire Nicaragua Caribbean coast, then known as the Mosquitia or Mosquito Coast, something that Nicaragua has protested from the very beginning.
In this context, the governments of Nicaragua and Colombia signed a treaty on March 24, 1928 in which the South American country recognized the sovereignty of Nicaragua over the Mosquito Coast and Nicaragua recognized the sovereignty of Colombia over the archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina.
But this treaty was signed under military occupation by U.S. troops, that stayed in Nicaragua from 1926 to 1933 (a total of 7 years). This is the time that Sandino fights against the foreign invasion and intervention. Under this situation Nicaragua is forced to sign the treaty and Colombia decides that the maritime boundary between the two nations is the meridian 87.
In 1980, with the Sandinista Revolution, President Ortega declares the treaty void, and decides to go to the international court in The Hague" He states the following arguments:
1. San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina and all the archipelago is on the continental Shelf of Nicaragua.
2. The treaty was signed under military foreign occupation.
For 11 years Nicaragua and Colombia have this dispute in the court. On the 19 of November of 2012 the court issues its ruling and states that the islands are of Colombian sovereignty, but the meridian 87 is not the border line, and that Nicaragua has the right to extend its maritime border up to 200 nautical miles. This was defined by the court in paragraph 251 of its Judgment of 19 November 2012 in the case known as Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia).
Although the islands were lost, President Ortega, as a serious statesman and respectful of international law, immediately accepted the ruling of the court, and invited President Santos to form committees of negotiation on the basis of the judgment.
Q: Why doesn’t Colombia accept the ruling of the International Court of Justice?
A: President Santos is using this to gain popularity because he is seeking to be reelected.
President Santos argues that he cannot accept the court's ruling:
First, he argues that it is against the constitution of Colombia. But it is absurd because no constitution can be above international law, because in that case the world would be in chaos. The Vienna Convention on Treaties makes it clear that a constitutional provision cannot be an argument for ignoring international resolutions.
Secondly, President Santos says it violates the rights of the islanders, but President Ortega has been very clear that he will grant permission to the fishermen, who traditionally have fished for survival; industrial fishing must ask permission to fish in territorial waters of Nicaragua.
Thirdly, Santos says the ruling goes against the provisions of UNESCO that gives Colombia the administration of the marine reserve "Seaflower”. However, that can be managed by both countries.
President Santos, not only ignores the court's ruling, he uses a disrespectful language, not worthy of a head of state, and he claims that Nicaragua is an expansionist country. President Ortega has responded with the following:
“This is a matter of law; it is not a matter of expansionism ... expansionism is imposed by force, by blackmail, whereas here we are talking that we both agreed to go before a judge, therefore we are forced to acknowledge the judge's ruling. That is the reality.”
President Santos is being badly advised; we hope he may reflect and reconsider, because his act only harms Colombia.
Q: What is Nicaragua doing at the present?
A: On the 16th of September of this year, Nicaragua submitted to the court a new proceeding against Colombia. So the court may define the delimitation of the boundaries between Nicaragua and Colombia, beyond the 200-nautical-mile. Nicaragua is requesting the court (1) to determine the precise course of the boundary in accordance with the principles and rules of the international law (2) indicate the rights and duties of the two states in relation to the area of overlapping.